Through my travels I’ve learned that you can understand a lot about another culture by what is “missing.” One of the things missing in Thailand, from my perspective as an American, is graveyards. I didn’t notice any, even when I visited the smaller cities.
I felt that temples are almost as common in Thailand as churches are in an average American town, there are big ones and small ones and one in almost every neighborhood, but none of them have cemeteries nearby. Holy buildings called Chedis are also often near the temples. They sometimes house cremains or bones of monks, but many house Buddhist relics and don’t commemorate death at all.
It makes sense though. In Buddhism, bodies are just vessels that individuals leave for another existence, never to return. I’ve read that most Thais are cremated and their ashes are scattered.
Of course what is “missing” in my mind is normal to others. I wonder how people from Southeast Asia view cemeteries.
Would they be considered unlucky places for bad spirits to gather?
Thailand does have some monuments to dead royalty. Important people may actually be honored for months before their cremations, but do acres of stones commemorating average people seem presumptuous?
What if cemeteries just seem like a waste of land and aren’t practical?
On the other hand, war cemeteries all over the world strike awe and reverence.
Reading or writing sci-fi is also a journey into a different land. What would become of cemeteries in either a sci-fi world, or in our future, where medical and technological advances almost wipe out death?
It’s something I might have to think about as my novel turns into a series.